Changes to wetland legislation an improvement for farmers
Changes to freshwater regulations will help farmers continue to invest in wetland restoration, according to DairyNZ.
Changes to the Essential Freshwater 2020 wetland regulations, which will come into effect in 2023, provide better wetland restoration, maintenance and water storage options for farmers.
“We were concerned about initial Government proposals that had regulations applying to constructed wetlands,” says Dr David Burger, DairyNZ general manager – sustainable dairy.
"It made getting consents for constructed wetlands difficult for farmers and could have discouraged them from creating wetlands that would benefit the environment. This has now changed, which is positive for farmers and the environment.
"The changes are timely, as more farmers are looking to reduce their environmental impact, and there’s growing interest in re-establishing and constructing new wetlands,” Dr Burger says.
DairyNZ continues to encourage farmers to invest in wetland restoration due to the environmental benefits. Its water science team works with other science organisations to increase understanding of wetland performance and how farmers can best place new wetlands in catchments.
Wetlands can significantly reduce nutrient and sediment losses on farms and improve water quality. They also boost biodiversity and can provide a habitat for birds and fish. A constructed wetland about 1 percent of the catchment size can remove an average of 20-25 percent of nitrogen and 50 percent of sediment.
In initial regulations, resource consents were not obtainable for the construction of any water storage infrastructure that could adversely impact the extent or values of a wetland.
The new consenting pathway has several conditions, including that the water storage infrastructure needs to provide significant national or regional benefits. These conditions set a high bar for the development of water infrastructure in and around wetland areas and are an improvement on previous regulations, which prevented farmers from creating storage structures if they would adversely impact the extent of or values within a wetland.
“The change addresses concerns raised in DairyNZ’s 2021 government submission on proposed wetland management changes to the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020,” says Dr Burger.
DairyNZ also made a joint submission with Fish & Game New Zealand on aligned positions.
DairyNZ continues to support farmers wanting to protect and restore existing wetlands. Tools are available to help farmers manage and improve wetlands on-farm, such as the below Constructed Wetland Practitioner Guide – Design and Performance Estimates which contains information on designing and constructing wetlands.